"Seoul: Energy in the Land of the Morning Calm" Top 5 Page for this destination Seoul by AKtravelers

Seoul Travel Guide: 3,205 reviews and 8,365 photos

15th century guardrs keep out the 21st century - Seoul
15th century guardrs keep out the 21st century

Seoul is a city of contrasts. It is the heartbeat of the modern South Korean economy, but the historical capital of most Korean governments. I know people who passed through it during the Korean War who remember it as a mud-filled backwater teeming with oxen drawn carts. Yet I know it as a sophisticated city of skyscrapers and legendary (car) traffic jams. To be sure, all this change must be jarring to older Koreans, who are traditionally very conservative, but the younger generation is reveling in it! Seoul is a hopping place.

Seoul is a Big, Diverse City
Downtown Seoul as seen from Namsan - Seoul

Downtown Seoul as seen from Namsan

Never forget how big and international Seoul is. It has 10 million people, all of whom seem to be on the road during rush hour. Even by subway, it can sometimes take over an hour to get from one point in the city to another. On a recent trip, I discovered that there are 22 Outback restaurants -- two within 100 meters of each other.
Seoul is a comsmopolitan international capital, full of expatriates. The best place to experience this is Itaewon, the former foreigner's ghetto from the late 19th century. There you'll here Korean, Russian, English, Tagalog and French among other languages.
Despite Seoul's size, it never seems that big. It's a collection of "dongs", or neighborhoods, each with their own character. And almost all of them are filled with small shops or small restaurants that bring human-sized dimensions to this spawling megopolis.

Thriving in a tense environment
Rufus hams it up with South Korean soldiers - Seoul

Rufus hams it up with South Korean soldiers

Amazingly, all this energy and growth is happening within artillery range of North Korea. Though the situation seems less tense now, in 1994 Kim Il Sung threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of flames" and he could have. Seoul is only 25 miles from the most heavily-armed border in the world, but you don't notice much of a military presence around the city. Many of the soldiers you see out, like this group, seem to be enjoying themselves. Military service is an obligation for all South Korean males.
Tensions between North and South ebb and flow, but right now some people are even starting to think about unification. This is something all Koreans want, but differ on how to best deal with the North to achieve it.
Rufus doesn't seem to have differences with anyone. You'll see photos of Rufus throughout these pages. His grandfather fought in the Korean War, and he was anxious to visit Seoul.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Friendly People, Improving Tourist Infrastructure
  • Cons:Horrible Air Pollution
  • Last visit to Seoul: Apr 2006
  • Intro Updated Apr 20, 2006
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Reviews (65)

Travelogues (2)

  • A procession in Insadong for Buddha - Seoul

    Written May 27, 2005

    7 photos

    Buddha's Birthday celebrations in Seoul

  • Cherry Blossoms and People make a great mix - Seoul

    Written Apr 23, 2006

    8 photos

    Cherry Blossom Viewing/People Watching on Yeouido

Comments (8)

  • Andreas_Fran's Profile Photo
    Jan 6, 2008 at 11:21 AM

    This is an excellent information pages! Well done.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 22, 2007 at 10:33 PM

    Nice page!

  • Sep 15, 2007 at 3:57 AM

    "cissors can be used as a utensil in Asia"--I think using scissors as a utensil is not widely practiced in Asia. But I also started since I saw my Korean friend slice different veggies and meat with it. How convenient!

  • Pixiekatten's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2007 at 10:47 AM

    Thanks for the card! :))) Had to come back to this excellent page and read some more great tips!!

  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo
    Nov 5, 2006 at 12:57 AM

    Excellent overview of the beautiful city of Seoul! Thank you!

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    May 9, 2006 at 4:39 PM

    I like your tip on the new Korean National Museum...it was under construction while I was there (and for many, many years before I arrived!).

  • jadedmuse's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2006 at 11:06 AM

    I haven't finished quite yet. The local customs/corn on the stick comment was great. I'm still chuckling.

  • Feb 16, 2006 at 6:01 PM

    Umbrella Taxi was a free service, a performance piece as part of the designersplanet young designers festival blog.naver.com/clayworks?Red...

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